14 Institutions fined GH¢1.3m for non-compliance with RTI Law
Fourteen public institutions have been slapped with a total of GH¢1,310,000 penalty for refusing to comply with the Right to Information (RTI) Commission’s orders to grant applicants access to information requested.
The institutions formed part of 26 review applications determined by the Commission since its operationalisation in 2020.
The Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, who disclosed this when he took his turn at the Meet-the-Press series in Accra yesterday, cited limited cooperation from public institutions as one of the challenges affecting the implementation of the RTI Law which depicts the number of compliance exercises conducted by the Commission.
The press briefing was to highlight the success stories, challenges and the way forward for the RTI Commission while offering journalists the opportunity to ask questions about the implementation of the RTI Law.
The RTI Act 989 was passed by Parliament on May 21, 2019.
The Right to Information is enshrined in the 1992 Constitution under Article 21 (1) (f).
The act is a guarantor for the public to access information from public institutions and relevant private agencies.
It further makes it easier for the public to enjoy the benefits that come with the right to access information, as provided by the 1992 Constitution.
Although the RTI Act provides for the right of access to information from public agencies, some classes of information are, by legal tenets, withheld from the public.
Some classified information on the Presidency, Cabinet, law enforcement, public safety, among others, may be exempted from public exposure.
Some of the institutions that have been fined include the Lands Commission, Keta Municipal Assembly and Ghana Oil PLC (GOIL).
Also penalised are Ghana Cocoa Board, Ministry of Education and the Ghana Police Service, among others.
Mr Nkrumah indicated that so far, access to information requests had increased over the three years of implementation of the Act with information requests increasing from 50 in 2020, to 382 in 2022.
He explained that in most cases, the heads of institutions who were subjected to administrative penalties were those who turned away information officers assigned by the ministry to such institutions.
While urging heads of institutions to embrace fully the RTI Law, Mr Nkrumah noted that the Office of the Head of Civil Service had incorporated the Right to Information (RTI) as a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) for all Chief Directors.
“Now it is an obligation under the performance contract of Chief Directors to ensure that the RTI law is fully institutionalised,” he emphasised.
The Information Minister further said efforts were underway to achieve same with the Local Government Service.
That, he explained, was aimed to guarantee the complete institutionalisation of the RTI culture within various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
Listing some actions taken by the RTI Commission, Mr Nkrumah noted that the Commission had so far distributed guidelines to over 590 institutions.
The guidelines, he said, would serve as a guide to public institutions on the relevant information that shall be contained in their Information Manuals.
As part of compliance measures, the minister said the commission carried out mystery shopping exercises of institutions to ascertain whether or not the RTI implementation was being executed in accordance with the advertised standards.
The ministry, Mr Nkrumah also indicated, through the ATI Division, and in consultation with the RTI Commission, was working to operationalise an Online Records Management System (ORMS) to enable applicants to apply for information online, aid information officers in keeping accurate records and increase efficiency.
“The platform, which has been developed in accordance with Section 18 of the RTI Act, 2019, will not only digitise the application and processing of RTI requests, but will also transform records management across public institutions in the country,” he said.
He noted that a draft Legislative Instrument for the RTI ACT was also undergoing stakeholder consultation and would be laid when Parliament resumed.